James Madison Institute
Rule of Law-Not Rule of Man

Francisco Gonzalez | Mar 02, 2010

By Francisco Gonzalez, JMI Development DirectorFollowing from my previous blog post, "Libertarianism: 2010", Cato Institute Senior fellow Ilya Shapiro also spoke heavily about the libertarian principle of the rule of law, during his lecture at FSU’s law school on February 3. He gave an account of common law and the principles of contract, tort, and property. Shapiro also stressed that libertarians believe in the rule of law, not the rule of man.

Leaning on the articulations by both F.A. Hayek and James Madison, Shapiro stressed that libertarians believe that guided by this philosophy, laws should be (1) general and abstract - and not command certain actions, (2) known and certain, so individuals will know how they can participate in society peacefully and legally and plan their own actions, and (3) apply equally to all persons.

Laws must also have a legitimate authority - that is why we consent to the law. And, individual and minority rights must be observed. The Constitution is based on these standards and that is what helps make it legitimate and the supreme law of the land. Shapiro proclaimed that “The Constitution may be the most libertarian document ever put into law.” It offers and across the board protection of liberty. Yet, he also admitted that liberty is under great threat, given the way we and our elected officials treat the Constitution today.

 
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